Lexington: Mid-Ohio preview

A field of 26 drivers will try to stop the Barber Dodge Pro Series championship train of AJ Allmendinger from rolling to the title this weekend at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as part of the CART Grand Prix of Ohio in Lexington, Ohio.

A field of 26 drivers will try to stop the Barber Dodge Pro Series championship train of AJ Allmendinger from rolling to the title this weekend at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as part of the CART Grand Prix of Ohio in Lexington, Ohio. Allmendinger, of Hollister, California took the point in the championship standings at the first race of the season in Sebring, Florida, and has never relinquished the spot, growing his lead over the rest of the field at every race this season.

Allmendinger has won five of the seven Barber Dodge races this season, and has finished on the podium every race except for Cleveland, where he finished fourth. He now finds himself 52 points ahead of Marc Breuers and 56 points ahead of Laguna Seca winner Rafael Sperafico. With two races remaining after the Mid-Ohio round, Allmendinger needs to finish the race weekend 47 points ahead of Breuers and Rafael Sperafico to take the championship and the $100,000 Barber-CART Career enhancement award that goes with it.

Allmendinger finds himself one year removed from his first start in the Barber Dodge Pro Series last year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. While he posted competitive times, qualifying within a half-second of the pole speed, his weekend was not an entirely positive experience as he finished dead last in the field after an off-course excursion ended his day early. Coming into this weekend looking to clinch the championship, Allmendinger is in a much better position this year than he was a year ago.

"Racing here last year was quite a learning experience for me, and I feel like now I am a 100 times ahead of where I was then," says Allmendinger. "Last year, I had very little experience in the car, and we missed the set up, and then I overdrove the car to try and make up for it, and I ended up off-course and out of the race, which was not really a good start. This year, though, the set-up I have for this race should be good and this is a driver's track, so we should be fast again."

There are several ways that Allmendinger can clinch the championship, but the simplest way for him to do it is to do what he has been doing all season, winning races. Winning would give Allmendinger 20 points on the weekend (and he can take up to three more if he wins the two points available in qualifying, and has the fastest lap in the race), and a mathematically insurmountable lead on the rest of the field. There are several other possibilities to taking the title without winning, from finishing ninth so long as Breuers and Sperafico do not score any points during the weekend, to finishing second and Breuers finishing third. Allmendinger has done some of the math in advance of the event, but knows that the simplest thing to do is to win.

"I have worked it all out as far as where I need to be if say Breuers gets some points in qualifying or not, or where I need to finish if Sperafico gets a win, but really, my game plan is the same as it has been every weekend we race in the Barber Dodge Pro Series-go win," says Allmendinger. "That way I don't have to do any math."

Marc Breuers, who finished seventh at the Mid-Ohio event last year, must take the win to keep his championship chances alive. Assuming that Allmendinger keeps his finishing streak alive, Breuers must make a grab for every point available over and above just winning, as the three points available for the two qualifying sessions and the fastest lap could be the difference between taking the championship and losing it. Breuers arrives in Mid-Ohio having had a tough weekend in Vancouver, where he qualified up front only to be spun at the start of the race when Julio Campos made an optimistic inside move in turn one, leaving Breuers no option but to have a run for the front from deep in the field to finish fifth. Breuers knows what he has to do this weekend, and is determined to get his first Barber Dodge Pro Series victory when he needs it most.

Also still in the points range to have a strike at the championship run is Rafael Sperafico of Toledo Parana, Brazil. Sperafico sits in third place in the standings some 56 points behind Allmendinger. The winner of the Laguna Seca race must duplicate that weekends effort, where he scored points for the pole and for the win, in order to keep his chances alive. He would also benefit from Allmendinger not taking any points during the weekend.

First qualifying takes place at 4:00 PM on Friday, with final qualifying taking place at 9:10 AM on Saturday. The 40-minute race is scheduled to start at 10:15 AM on Sunday. Full results and story will be posted at www.barberdodge.com.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series is the Official Entry Level Professional Series of CART. The drivers utilize identically prepared single seat open wheel Reynard-Dodge racecars. Barber Dodge Pro Series provides a level playing field where driving talent, not financial resources, play the decisive role. This state-of-the-art platform, with its carbon composite construction, raised nose and 6-speed sequential gearbox, takes full advantage of the 265hp all aluminum Dodge V6 Intrepid motor that is exclusive to this series. Additionally, all of the Barber Dodges compete on identical Michelin Pilot racing slicks.

To ensure absolute equality for all competitors, the Barber Dodge Pro Series owns, maintains, prepares and transports all the cars and equipment. This serves to control costs while allowing the drivers to concentrate solely on developing their driving skills. The Barber Dodge Pro Series rewards those with dedication and skill with true financial incentive - an incredible $55,100 in prize money is available for each Barber Dodge Pro Series event with $13,000 going to the race winner. The overall Series Champion receives a $100,000 scholarship towards entry in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, and the series Rookie of the Year receives $185,000 in career enhancement funding. In total, the Barber Dodge Pro Series pays out over $1 million annually in prize money, contingencies and scholarships.

Notes-

* Danica Patrick will be racing for the first time in the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the home track of her backer Bobby Rahal. Patrick is coming off her career best Barber Dodge finish with a strong fourth place in Vancouver in only her third Barber Dodge Race this season. Patrick finished in seventh place in Toronto and again in Cleveland.

* Dave Zuber, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, will be making his first Barber Dodge Pro Series race at his home track of Mid-Ohio. Although Zuber will be competing in his first major pro race at Mid-Ohio, it will not be his first event on the 13-turn track nestled in the rolling hills of eastern Morrow County. "I've actually been racing at Mid-Ohio on and off since I was a teenager, first in go karts, and later in SCCA races that take place there several times a year," Zuber explains. "And over the years I've been lucky enough to race at other tracks around the country, but Mid-Ohio is as good as it gets for me. It's a great track and I have a lot of fantastic memories from it. Hopefully, this weekend will provide me with some more."

* Four of the top five finishers in last years Mid-Ohio Barber Dodge Pro Series race are now competing in the CART Toyota Atlantic series:

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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Julio Campos , Marc Breuers , Rafael Sperafico , Danica Patrick
Teams ART Grand Prix